Archive | June, 2002

Blackberry Gelatin Prose – Vincent Czyz’s Adrift in a Vanishing City

STORIES — Formless as a tadpole egg-sack, Adrift in a Vanishing City by Vincent Czyz, floats untethered to any narrative foundation. Snippets of characterization, dialogue, and non-sequiturs float in the prosey soup, slowly revealing the relationship of two women and a working class wanderer named Zirque, an international menege-a-trois unconfined by time or space.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 12 }

I. is Somebody Else

REVIEW — I., the protagonist in the novel I., shares the same biography as Stephen Dixon, the novelist. He’s a writer in his late sixties working on the creative faculty of a preppy writing program in Baltimore. His wife is in a wheelchair. He has two late teenage daughters, the oldest heading off to college. Stephen Dixon tempts the reader to assume he is the character in the novel. At this near edge of fiction and autobiography, he plays up how fiction as a form of lying can also be a way of knowing. Stephen Dixon isn’t a novelist so much as a chronicler of a serialized life.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 0 }

Oulipo: A Primer of Potential Literature

REVIEW —

“Works of fiction contain a single plot, with all of its imaginable permutations,” Tlön, Uglor, Orbiris, Tertius – Jorge Louis Borges

Warren F. Motte has collected a series of critical writing from The Ouvrior de Littérature Potentielle or Oulipo (The Workshop of Potential Literature), a primarily French group organized around Raymond Queneau and primarily concerned with methods of creating new literary structures. Their ideas offer a welcome relief to the staid and stale conviction that literary forms have been handed down from the ancients along with the rest of language, as if structures like sonnets or mystery novels are as intrinsically a part of language as vowels or nouns.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 0 }

I Hate Myself and I Want to Die

REVIEW — Amy returns home for the summer to the small Wisconsin town where she grew up, and she quickly finds that even though in Seattle she’s a confident, established woman, back home she’s back to her ragged, nervous adolescent self, back to a role she left when she first slipped off to the University at Madison, back to when she used to practice slashing her wrists. In Seattle, Amy works as a college professor and has a long-term live-in relationship with Robin. Amy describes her as “laugh[ing] a lot. For me the laughing went with an easiness of the body.” In Wisconsin, Amy finds she’s the family’s slightly out-of-whack sister compared to the success stories of her brother and sister, one a lawyer and the other a businessman, both straight and with families.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 0 }

Machine Handwriting

REVIEW — By constraining himself to a limited page size and single letter form, Nico Vassilakis has developed a tight graphic vocabulary in this book. He pushes well beyond the lame parlor tricks of concrete poetry. I often find concrete poems out of place in language. The concrete poet visually forces the words into massive arrangements like a florist or like those photographs in the late 70s early 80s of people in the shape of candles or Coca-Cola bottles.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 0 }

Tenant Laws

REVIEW — The fantasy of self reliance doesn’t just include the retreat to nature of Ralph Emerson or Ted Kosynski but it also includes the more urban counterparts of the bare bones existences lived out of a single room in a cheap hotel of Jesse Bernstein or Koon Woon; a plain trust of where they are right then despite the evidence that their current state of mind and health is not a permanent one and may come apart at any moment.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 0 }

Some of Us Have to Get It

REVIEW — SOME OF HAVE TO GET UP IN THE MORNING begins in a hardened-in-the-arteries mode. A housewife lives near a busy highway. Neighbors throw a party for the departure of the local thug on his way into the Marines. An unemployed father fights for the right to have his children. Daniel Scott tells these stories in a standard issue working-class shtick, using simple declarative sentences, the smug irony of none-too-bright narrators, and the catalog of dirty realistic detail found in doublewides.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 0 }

Non-Perishables

REVIEW — At one point, the characters Lee William’s first novel, After Nirvana, find themselves in a Safeway with a coupon book shopping for a single stick of deodorant to handle the five hustling runaways. They are five street kids teens, two girls and three boys, who banded together to watch after each other and collectively earn what they can in the park bathrooms, highway rest areas, and adult video booths along I-5 between Eugene and Seattle. This mission to buy deodorant is probably one of the most complicated tasks undertaken in the course of the story, which sort of makes After Nirvana sound like a chronicle of five mental deficients, but really illustrates how alien buying dry goods like make-up or toilet paper are to these street kids. They loiter in front of the confusing row of choices.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 0 }

Burn Your Poems and Ride the Hobby-Horse

REVIEW — In a recent review of two books from the Subtext collective (some sort of Seattle based poetry commune), Stephen Thomas, wrote, “Wallace Steven remarked somewhere that every successful poem expresses a theory of poetry… Every serious poet has had to come to terms with the power of language to express its own meanings apart from, or even in opposition, to the poet’s own intention. The Language poets seem to start with this experience. It is not too much to say that they cultivate a distrust of language and that their poems often frustrate the ‘basic’ function of language to narrate, to explain, to describe and to import knowledge or wisdom.”

Continue Reading →

Comments { 0 }

Oulipo Laboratory

REVIEW — Founded in late 1960 in France, at a colloquium on the work of Raymond Queneau, in order to research new writing by combining mathematics and literature (and also to just horse around) the Oulipo (The Ouvrior de LittÈrature Potentielle or Oulipo (The Workshop of Potential Literature)) expanded to include all writing using self-imposed restrictive systems.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 0 }